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October 2013

A Dolphin Calf Joins the Pod at Brookfield Zoo

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Brookfield Zoo, managed by the Chicago Zoological Society, welcomed a newborn male dolphin calf on October 16. The calf, born to 31-year-old mother Tapeko, is approximately 40 pounds (18 kg) and 3.5 feet long (107 cm). Mother and calf are currently off exhibit, and the zoo’s dolphin presentations have been temporarily canceled to allow Tapeko and her calf time to bond and get acquainted with the other dolphins in the group.

Following the birth, it is important for the calf to demonstrate several key milestones, including nursing and slipstreaming, which is when the calf rests in the hydrodynamic wake made behind the mother as she swims. This allows the mother to use her own energy to help the calf glide behind her. Marine mammal and veterinary staff have observed the new calf displaying these behaviors and, encouraged by what they have seen so far, are cautiously optimistic that the little male is on the right track.

“We know that the first 30 days are extremely critical in the calf’s life,” said Rita Stacey, marine mammal curator for the Chicago Zoological Society. This time frame accounts for the largest rate of loss to dolphin populations both in the wild and under professional care, as compared to any other demographic age group. Beyond the critical first 30 days, the first year is also filled with challenges and milestones the calf must reach. 

Dolphin 2Photo credits: Jim Schultz / Chicago Zoological Society

The little one is well cared-for. Tapeko is an experienced mother, having successfully reared four calves, one of which was her grandson as well as her daughters Allison, 7, and Noelani, 9, who are both members of the dolphin group living at Brookfield Zoo.

“This is an important time for our breeding group of females,” added Stacey. “As an experienced mom, Tapeko is able to demonstrate to the younger females how to care for a newborn calf.” This is especially timely as Spree, 11, is expected to give birth to her first calf later this fall. 

Meet Zoo Berlin’s Blue-eyed Baby Caracal Quadruplets

Four fluffy Caracal kittens were born on July 21 at Germany’s Zoo Berlin.  The two male and two female cubs, with their rusty-colored coats, bright blue eyes, and long black ear-tips, are now out of the nest box and charming zoo visitors.

Photo Credit:  Zoo Berlin

Parents Sarek and Amanda came to the zoo from South Africa in 2004, and have reliably produced offspring nearly every year since. Quadruplets are rare in Caracals, making this litter of kittens unique.  The subspecies living at Zoo Berlin has an intense cinnamon-red coat color.

The name Caracal is derived from the Turkish “kara kulak,” which means “black ear,” referring to the black ear tufts, which can be nearly half the length of the ear itself.  These tufts probably aid in sound detection.

Caracals, also known as Desert Lynx, are widely distributed throughout Africa, Central Asia, and parts of India.  They inhabit dry steppes and rocky terrain.  Caracals are becoming rare in parts of their range, particularly in North Africa, Central Asia, and India.



Shiva Gets Her Shots at Zoo Berlin

Shiva, a rare Persian Leopard cub born at Zoo Berlin, was not shy about voicing her displeasure when she received her latest round of vaccinations. 

Despite Shiva's disapproval, it was important for the veterinary staff to vaccinate the cub against feline distemper and other diseases.  This was a challenging task because Shiva had to be separated from her mother, Yerevan.  Since her birth on July 1, Shiva and her mother have been inseparable.  Shiva made her public debut last week.

Photo Credit:  Zoo Berlin

Shiva is the fifth cub for Yerevan, age 11.  Shiva’s father Haakon is age 16 – quite an advanced age for a big cat.

Persian Leopards were once found throughout central Asia, but they now live only in fragmented populations in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and the Caucasus.  Iran holds the largest population of wild Persian Leopards, with about 700 remaining there.  These small, separate groups of Leopards are threatened by further loss of habitat, armed conflict, and reduction of prey species.  Currently, about 100 Persian Leopards live in zoos, where managed breeding programs could counteract the long-term decline of these cats in the wild.

Koala Joey's First Day Out at Taronga Zoo

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This little Koala joey emerged from her mother Maggie's pouch for the first time at Taronga Zoo in Sydney on October 11. Spotted clinging to her mum, this female joey is about six months old and is the fifth joey for Maggie, who is good mother and quite protective of her young.

The Koala joey is yet to be named and keepers are currently thinking of an appropriate Australian name for the newest addition to the group. Over the coming months the joey will continue to stay with her mother until approximately 12 months old when she will become independent.

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6 koalaPhoto credits: Taronga Zoo 

Playful Meerkat Trio Joins the Family at Zoo Heidelberg

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Zoo Heidelberg's Meerkat family has grown again, for the second time this year. In early October, three pups were born. Born naked, blind and helpless, the pups have developed much over the past few weeks and now can be seen running around outside the den with the zoo's other 15 Meekats. The three young pups are very wild and playful, developing the skills that they would need in the wild to be successful foragers and hunters.

Meerkats, endemic to the desert of southern Africa, are members of the mongoose family. They live in social colonies in underground burrows and tunnels that help to protect them against the harsh sun. These groups always follow a structured system of rank: only the dominant male and female reproduce, while the others help out as babysitters. Some members of the colony act as scouts that cry out to warn each other if a predator, like a hawk, is spotted. Even though there aren't any serious predators at Heidelberg Zoo, the zoo's Meerkats still show this behavior.  

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Meerkat 5Photo credits: Peter Bastian (1-4); Heidrun Knigge (5)

Although small, Meerkats are skilled hunters and can kill prey up to the size of a lizard or bird. At the zoo, the Meerkats are presented with a healthy variety of fruits as well as animal foods. Their favorite treat is a sprinkling of mealworms: they love to scratch and dig around until every last one has been found. 

It's a Boy! Zoo Vienna Welcomes a Healthy Panda Cub

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Zoo Vienna's newest Panda cub, the third Panda ever to be born at the zoo, is now two months old. The little animal is at an exciting phase of development: his eyes have opened.

"Panda babies are born blind. Between 30 and 45 days after birth their eyes slowly begin to open. One to two weeks later they have opened completely although perception is still restricted to light-dark contrasts," the zoo’s director Dagmar Schratter explains.

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Photo credits: Daniel Zupanc / Zoo Vienna

See an early video of Yang Yang with her newborn:


Meanwhile, mother Yang Yang is now comfortable leaving the breeding box to eat and drink about seven times a day. All in all, she now leaves the young animal, which already weighs around 6.5 pounds (3 kg), alone for up to six hours. Still, the black and white fur-ball’s admirers will have to be patient another few months until he will be able to climb out of the breeding box on his own. 

Schratter says, "The baby panda cannot crawl yet. He manages to push himself away from the floor only to fall over immediately and to tumble back into the soft bamboo nest."

Birth of Seven Seadragons Kicks Off Birch Aquarium's Captive Breeding Program

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Between September 19-30, seven baby Seadragons hatched from a male Weedy Seadragon carrying eggs on its tail at Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, an event captive breeding programs rarely experience. The male was one of 10 weedy Seadragons donated to Birch Aquarium by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.

The hatchlings were part of the first brood raised in Birch Aquarium’s new Seadragon Propagation Program, which aquarists hope will follow in the footsteps of its successful Seahorse Propagation Program. Now that the first Seadragon babies have hatched, the team can begin to work on replicating the process with additional Seadragons. Eventually, the team also hopes to breed another species of Seadragons, the Leafy Seadragon. Only five other aquariums in the United States have successfully bred Weedy Seadragons in captivity and no aquarium has yet been able to breed Leafy Seadragons.

Seadragon male with eggs

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Photo credits: Birch Aquarium

Famous for their leaf-like appendages and found in the wild only off the coast of southern Australia, Seadragons are relatives of the Seahorse. 

To ensure delicate handling and limit the amount of car travel required for the animals, the Weedy Seadragons were carefully packed into shipping bags in coolers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on September 1 and flown to San Diego in a private plane piloted by former Scripps marine technician Eddie Kisfaludy.

“Transporting adult Seadragons is not something that happens very often, and we were a bit concerned about how well they would handle the move from Monterey to Birch. When the male weedy was discovered with eggs on its tail, that elevated our worry to a new level, ” said Jonelle Verdugo, associate curator of fish and invertebrates at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

If the male seadragon were stressed, he might have dropped the eggs, aquarium officials said. The experts at both aquariums did everything possible to reduce stress that might be caused by the trip to San Diego. 

“Being able to fly the Seadragon in a private plane significantly reduced the amount of time it took to get him from his old home to his new home,” Verdugo added.  

Visitors to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps can learn more about Seadragons, seahorses, the aquarium’s successful Seahorse Propagation Program (currently in its 19th year) and its new Seadragon Propagation Program in the exhibit, There’s Something About Seahorses, currently on display.

“We are simply delighted that our talented aquarists helped welcome these baby Seadragons into the world,” said Nigella Hillgarth, executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps. “Seadragons are such magical creatures, and a successful breeding program will help support the aquarium’s education efforts as well as limit the number of Seadragons that are taken from the wild.” 

Ramat Gan Safari Park Welcomes a Second Asian Elephant Calf

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Two female Asian Elephant calves have been born at Ramat Gan Safari Park in Israel. The first female to give birth was 7.5 year-old La-Belle, on August 2. As she is a very young mother, her own mother La-Petite, heavily pregnant herself, took over and nursed the calf. After a few nerve-wracking days of 24-hour monitoring, keepers could rest assured that the calf was getting enough milk, suckling from both her mother and her grandmother alternately. The calf, born a bit small, was named Latangi which means ‘slim girl’ in the Sanskrit language. (See our first story about Latangi here.)  

After exactly two months of anticipation, a second female calf was born to 28-year-old La-Petite. This time the calf was bigger and stronger and received the Hindi name ‘Lalana’ meaning ‘a girl’. Both mothers and calves are doing great. They are spending their days in the exhibit happily, together with the father Motek. The birth of the two calves is wonderful news, especially as Asian Elephants are a unique and endangered species. 

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Photo credits: Tibor Jager / Ramat Gan Safari Park

See video of the calves and mothers together:


See more photos after the fold!

Continue reading "Ramat Gan Safari Park Welcomes a Second Asian Elephant Calf" »

Are Lion Cubs Ticklish?

We don't know if Lions are ticklish, but this mom seems to join in the fun with her three playful Asiatic Lion cubs, born at Sweden’s Parken Zoo on July 18.  But like all moms, she knows just when to discipline her growing cubs and when to play along.

Photo Credit:  Parken Zoo

Born to mother Ishara, age 6, and father Kaja, age 14, the cubs were recently examined by the zoo’s veterinarian, given vaccines, and had identifying microchips inserted.  Now, they are ready to meet their older siblings, Khana and Gir, age two.  Khana and Gir have been watched over by Sarla, a 16-year-old female in the zoo’s pride, while Ishara tended her new cubs.

Asiatic Lions once roamed much of southern Asia and the Middle East, but they now exist as a tiny population of only 350 animals in India’s Gir Forest area.  They are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.   Thanks to protection, the population has doubled in the last 40 years, but the Asiatic Lion is still vulnerable to poaching, disease, and natural disasters.

See more photos of the cubs below the fold.

Continue reading "Are Lion Cubs Ticklish? " »

Giraffe Calf is a Record-Setter at Zoo Praha

Kleopatra the Giraffe has tied a record at the Czech Republic’s Zoo Praha:  she delivered her 11th calf on the evening of October 9.

Zoo Praha has an impressive history of breeding these gentle giants:  The female calf is the 79th Giraffe calf to be born at the zoo.

Photo Credit: Tomáš Adamec, Zoo Praha

According to the zoo staff, the baby stood soon after the delivery, which is an important milestone in the development of a newborn calf.  Giraffe calves typically stand within an hour of birth, and they nurse shortly afterward.  This survival skill is important to a calf born on the African savannah.  If they can’t follow the herd, they could fall prey to hungry lions or hyenas. 

After the exertion of learning to stand, calves often curl up and rest, with mom standing watch close by.